Image Credit -Eurosports

At first, he didn’t understand the agenda when Erik ten Hag looked across the home dressing room during the interval, during his side’s Premier League meeting with Aston Villa. The message he was about to deliver would be a symbolic one for Rasmus Hojlund’s First Red Devils. “I said at half-time: “keep believing and we will win’.”

While his team was two goals down and their supporters were rebellious, the words of Ten Hag not only proved decisive for his team in their concluding thrilling victory. But also, it was extra patient to Rasmus Hojlund as he scored the winning goal and served as a reminder to the entire club about their eventual aims under Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the new owner.

The significance of the victory added gravity to the success and they did it in front of Sir Dave Brailsford – the Ineos head of sport. He along with the former Juventus chief executive Jean-Claude Blanc, will take up a seat on the football club board after Ratcliffe’s purchase will be confirmed within six to eight weeks of time. When Ten Hag was asked what Brailsford and his colleagues thought of the performance, he replied, “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them.” He also added, “I said before the game that we were competitive with Arsenal and competitive with Liverpool so if we play our best we can beat anyone.”

In the first half of the match, at one point, when he tried to score but failed to reach a low Alejandro Garnacho cross. A home supporter seated not too far from Brailsford yelled in frustration at Hojlund: “Can’t you make a decent run’. Brailsford was sitting in the back row of the director’s box with United’s interim chief executive Patrick Stewart. The 20-year-old player was in the middle of his 17th domestic game, since the time a £64m move from Serie A outfit Atalanta. Yet, he was still to score and was looking less likely to break his duck.

But, despite the frustration, Ten Hag has never stopped believing in the Denmark striker and Hojlund didn’t allow his head to drop or lose his face. In the 82nd minute, Bruno Fernandes’ corner was stabbed in his direction by Villa skipper John McGinn. However, it was initially flicked on by Jonny Evans, Hojlund reacted quickest, lashing the loose ball home from eight yards distance. His relief was obvious as he raced to the corner flag before being submerged by righteously overjoyed teammates. The goalkeeper Andre Onana also joined them in this celebration by racing up to them across the field.

“I had several talks with him,” responded Ten Hag, “I pointed out he scored a lot for Denmark and scored in the Champions League so that demonstrated ability. He had to believe in it. When strikers don’t score it is always a problem but he has a strong character and a big personality, which is what a striker needs. When he keeps investing, the goals will come and he will score more.”